After the first McDonaldland commercials began airing in January 1971, the Kroffts sued for copyright infringement. When the case went to trial in 1973, their lawyers showed the jury several H.R. Pufnstuf episodes and McDonaldland commercials and pointed out the obvious similarities. McDonald's and Needham responded that the show and the commercials weren't exactly the same. For example, Mayor McCheese and Pufnstuf were each the mayor of a fanciful land, but McCheese was a cheeseburger in pink formal wear while Pufnstuf was a dragon.
The jury, and later the appeals court, didn't buy it. "We do not believe that the ordinary reasonable person, let alone a child, viewing these works will even notice that Pufnstuf is wearing a cummerbund while Mayor McCheese is wearing a diplomat's sash," the appeals court wrote. The court held that the defendants had wrongfully appropriated the "total concept and feel" of H.R. Pufnstuf, anticipating the "look and feel" argument made by litigious computer software developers years later. The Kroffts were awarded a big chunk of dough.
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